Fired-up community meeting explores University Heights crises
UB, City of Buffalo, students all opinionated on potential changes to neighborhood
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 01:10
Are students the problem?
Many of the concerned residents said students are corrupting the neighborhood.
Vertino, who used to be a landlord in the area, said his former student renters put a keg that was saturated with beer on the first floor, which caused the floor to sag. In the basement, he noticed the main beam on the ceiling was cracked. If people walked through the upstairs, the basement ceiling could have caved in, he said, adding that students were frequently in that basement.
“We’re not focusing on holding the students accountable for their actions – it’s a loving act,” Vertino said. “We don’t want them to go into dangerous situations.”
Many students are unknowingly putting themselves in danger by holding parties in the century-old homes, many of which are not up to code. Also, they’re getting drunk late at night, making it easier for criminals to take advantage of them.
One community member said criminals are prevalent in the Heights because they wait to prey on college students who are drunk.
“When students come in, crime goes up,” she said. “Criminals are posting [up].”
One community member stood up and pointed out that not all of the young people “hosting ridiculously huge parties” are necessarily from UB.
“That’s rare,” Beaty responded.
Jacob Jordan, an urban and planning graduate student, has lived on Merrimac for four years – since he was an undergraduate at UB. He’s the president of the Merrimac block club.
Jordan proposed a solution on Monday night: He said the University Heights Collaborative and Student Association should partner up and target “more academically minded students” who would take an active role in the Heights community instead of those who choose to live there for recreational purposes.
Aaron Krolikowski, a UB alum who also lives in and is active in the Heights, said UB students are adults and shouldn’t be told where they can go or when they can take public transportation.
“I want to echo what Jake said: We have to do a better job as a community at identifying and creating opportunities for those good students and make it less desirable for those bad citizens to be here,” Krolikowski said.
Exploring a solution
Vertino prefaced the meeting by saying it wasn’t going to be about solving the problem just yet, but bringing awareness to the nature of the issues in the Heights.
In an interview after the meeting, Pietkiewicz said university officials are going to have a group meeting with “a smaller substance” of Monday night’s group – including Vertino and block club members.